Decision : Upheld
Decision date : 28 Jun 2019
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: The Ombudsman found fault by the Council on Mrs Q’s complaint about it failing to investigate her reports of a mosque never opening its car park for which it received planning consent which may be contributing to local parking problems. While it acted against inconsiderate parking, it failed to explore the reason for its frequent recurrence. The agreed action remedies the injustice caused. There was no evidence of her asking for a disabled bay. There is insufficient evidence about it failing to maintain pavements to find fault.
- Mrs Q complains about the Council failing to:
- Take enforcement action against drivers damaging grass verges because they park on them;
- Take enforcement action against drivers who park in such a way as to make it difficult for her son’s disability transport to collect and return him;
- Act on her request for a disabled parking bay/driveway protection marking (H-bar) outside her house; and
- Maintain the pavements in a good state of repair.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- If we are satisfied with a council’s actions or proposed actions, we can complete our investigation and issue a decision statement. (Local Government Act 1974, section 30(1B) and 34H(i), as amended)
- We investigate complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. In this statement, I have used the word fault to refer to these. We must also consider whether any fault has had an adverse impact on the person making the complaint. I refer to this as ‘injustice’. If there has been fault which has caused an injustice, we may suggest a remedy. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 26(1) and 26A(1), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I considered all the information Mrs Q sent, the notes I made of our telephone conversations, and the Council’s response to my enquiries, a copy of which I sent her. I sent a copy of my draft decision to Mrs Q and the Council. I considered their responses.
What I found
- Mrs Q is unhappy about the Council’s failure to act against drivers attending a local mosque who do not use the car park but park on the verges. Apart from damaging the verges, it makes it difficult to park or get past them. It causes her a problem because she is elderly, has a visual impairment, the road is narrow, and her son has several disabilities.
- Her son’s disability transport is regularly blocked from getting near to their house. Due to the conditions of the footpaths, she had several falls in the last year. She claimed she asked for an advisory road marking (H-bar) outside of her house but the Council never responded.
- I now examine each of her complaints:
Enforcement: grass verges
- Mrs Q believes if those attending the mosque used its car park, they would not need to park along her road and on the grass verges. She believes its car park is never used which is contributing to this problem.
- The Council’s stage 1 response to Mrs Q under its complaint’s procedure told her an officer would write to the mosque to ask visitors to make best use of its off-street parking.
- In response to my enquiries, the Council confirmed:
- it received several complaints from residents about parking, especially on Fridays. When it receives a report about parking on a verge, an officer is sent to serve a parking contravention notice if the vehicle is unattended. If the driver is present, the officer gives them the chance to move it;
- parking on verges is restricted in the borough to maintenance vehicles only;
- it installed yellow lines on the bend in the road near to Mrs Q’s house;
- planning consent for the mosque has a condition about car parking and its management. It has no active enforcement case about parking and this car park;
- it could not provide evidence of an officer writing to the mosque following its stage 1 response, although an officer recalled dropping a note off at the mosque. It could not say what, if anything, happened, as a result of this note;
- Mrs Q’s complaint the car park gates were always locked was not investigated either by its parking team or by planning officers;
- her claim the car park was never used was not investigated; and
- officers saw no evidence of mosque members putting cones on the road to block it off or stop traffic.
- The Council confirmed it received no reports the site was not built according to planning consent.
- The mosque and car park received planning consent in 2011. The planning application documents included:
- The planning officer’s report: this went before the planning committee. It contained the comments of the highway officer who wanted to protect residential amenity from displaced parking. The officer proposed a bond to the Council incase displaced parking became a problem. It would hold the bond for 5 years. In addition, the officer recommended a travel plan so users were aware of, and used, sustainable travel choices;
- A travel plan: this referred to the proposal to provide 9 car parking spaces and 1 disabled parking space. It noted locally there were about 440 spare parking spaces during the afternoon and evening peaks within 400 metres of the site;
- An email: this referred to a £2,000 bond needed in case the Council had to make a traffic regulation order; £1,000 for implementing it; and £6,000 to cover consultation with residents, analysis, and preparing a report for the area committee. The Council confirmed the bond and transport contributions were covered in the section 106 agreement; and
- The decision notice: this gave consent and referred to the plan showing the provision of the car parking spaces.
- In terms of parking on the verges, I considered what the Council did in response under the following head of complaint.
- I examined what the Council did in response to her central complaint about the mosque not using its car park. Having done so, I found fault on this complaint for the following reasons:
- The Council failed to provide any evidence of contact with the mosque about the claim it is not using the car park for which it received planning consent; and
- Nor did it provide any evidence showing officers investigated the claim gates to it were permanently locked which meant it was never used.
Enforcement: inconsiderate parking
- Mrs Q also claimed inconsiderate parking near her home causes her and her son great difficulty. It prevents her son’s disability transport from parking close to their house when it arrives. She also complained about parking on verges causing her problems.
- In response to my enquiries, the Council noted:
- its records show from May 2018 to March 2019, it issued 83 parking contravention notices which included parking problems and dropped kerb obstructions;
- its records show Mrs Q reporting mosque users placing cones on the highway to reserve parking. An officer visited the site the following day and noted he needed to return on the Friday. The records do not show him visiting;
- it installed yellow lines near a bend close to her home; and
- there were no other requests from residents about imposing waiting restrictions on this road. Extra patrols were made to look for vehicles parking on verges. The Council apologised for the failure with this service and upheld her complaint about parking.
- The evidence shows the Council acted on reports of inconsiderate parking as it issued almost 8 parking contravention notices a month for this location, or almost 2 a week. It installed yellow lines on a bend. While the records do not provide a detailed breakdown of the exact location of issue for each parking contravention notice, I am satisfied it is acting against drivers who park inconsiderately and on verges.
- The ongoing nature of this problem, and its failure to resolve it, was recognised by the Council at stage 2 of its complaint’s procedure when it upheld her complaint. It apologised to Mrs Q for its service failing to meet it usual standards. The underlying cause, therefore, of why there is a problem with parking at this location was not identified and addressed. The use, or non-use, of the car park, for example, may or may not be one factor but the Council failed to explore it. This is fault.
- I am satisfied this failure caused Mrs Q avoidable injustice. She does not know whether the situation could have improved had the Council investigated the cause of this problem and considered what options it had to stop it.
- There is no evidence of the officer going back on a Friday to observe the road. This is fault.
Request for parking bay
- In response to my enquiries, the Council confirmed it has no record of any application for a disabled bay from Mrs Q for outside of her property. Mrs Q said in her response to my draft decision that she had applied but was told the Council would install double yellow lines, which it went on to do.
- I found no fault on this complaint. This is because there is no evidence Mrs Q applied for a parking bay.
- In its stage 2 response the Council upheld her complaint that the pathways were in a poor state of repair and would arrange for an officer to visit to look at replacing any slabs posing a hazard.
- In its response to my enquiries, the Council’s records show work was done on the road and pavement 38 times between January 2018 and January 2019 with 7 surveys carried out in between.
- In its response to Mrs Q’s formal complaint, the Council accepted it could have been more pro-active responding to her reports of hazardous paying slabs for which it apologised.
- The records provided do not show who made a report to the Council about problems with the pavement. The Council’s records show officers recorded 3 defects on the road in November 2018 and a further 7 in January 2019.
- On the evidence provided, I am unable to find fault on the Council on this complaint.
- I read our guidance on remedies.
- The Council will, within 4 weeks of the final decision on this complaint, carry out the following:
- Send Mrs Q a written apology for failing to properly investigate her reports about the non-use of the car park;
- Complete a review of why her reports were not investigated and communicate lessons learned from it to relevant officers;
- Pay Mrs Q £100 for the avoidable distress caused; and
- Investigate why there are parking problems at this location, what steps it can take to resolve it, and send its findings to Mrs Q and the Ombudsman within 6 weeks of starting it.
- The Ombudsman found fault on Mrs Q’s complaint against the Council. The agreed action remedies the injustice caused.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman